• February 2013

Inside MOM's Organic Market, With CEO Scott Nash

By Dave Feldman
Executive Director,
Bethesda Green
CEO, Livability Project LLC

Scott Nash founded MOM’s Organic Market in 1987, starting first in his mother’s garage. From the beginning, his mission was to create a retail chain that protects and restores the environment.

With 10 stores in the DC and Baltimore metropolitan region today, Nash prides himself on leading by example.

“In addition to educating our customers, we are proud that our competitors are changing their behavior based on our example,” he says. “Of course, profits are important—mostly because funding helps us keep our mission alive, and it helps us contribute to other causes that support our purpose. So, the more MOM’s stores there are, the more we can protect and restore the environment.”

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Nash about his business, the impact he’s making, and his plans for the future.

Dave Feldman: What specifically does MOM’s do to protect the environment?

Scott Nash: A lot of things. We use biodegradable plastic bags and containers for our own packaging. We eliminated plastic shopping bags, and we don’t sell bottled water. We recycle and compost almost everything, and urge our customers to bring us their recyclables (batteries, CFL bulbs, jeans, corks, plastic bags, holiday lights, styrofoam, shoes, electronics).

We also use wind power to keep the lights on, and all of our lighting is LED. Plus, we have car-charging stations at most of our stores.

Dave Feldman: And I understand that you are doing what you can to encourage your employees to drive fuel-efficient cars.

Scott Nash: That’s right. We offer employees a $5,000 incentive if they drive an electric car, and a $3,000 incentive if they drive a hybrid. And we are happy to inflate the tires on our customers’ cars to make sure their gas mileage is maximized.

Dave Feldman: Consumers are more aware of the health benefits of their food today than ever before. Many shop at MOM’s because you have high standards for where your food comes from and how it grows. What are some of the trends around healthy food, and what is in store for the next-generation organic, sustainable food market?

Scott Nash: In the 26 years that I’ve been in business, healthy food fads have come and gone. We don’t pay much attention to the latest reports of “fill-in-the-blank prevents X.” Some people used to think that organic farming was a fad, at least those who even knew what it was. Now, some people think that it’s a recent trend. Organic products have trended in one direction—UP! Organic farming is here to stay. It is chemical farming that eventually will be seen as a fad, albeit a long, 100+ year fad. The more consumers know, the more they favor organics.

Dave Feldman: You have a great blog called Scott’s Compost Pile, where you talk about issues as diverse as local versus organic, to the broad array of pets you own. Some posts are controversial and others are personal. What are some of your favorite issues to write about, and which post has elicited the most unusual response?

Scott Nash: I like to write things that might change the way people look at an issue. Those are usually thoughts that I’ve had swirling around in my head for a while, but don’t tell many people. One of my favorite posts was the one on Misfits. I’ve always felt like a misfit, alone with these thoughts.

I think the best response I got was in a recent post titled On Tap, in which I railed against the bottled water industry. My friend, who happens to own a bottled water company, got on my blog and started arguing with me. That was fun.

Dave Feldman: You recently announced that you would eliminate products marketed to children. This was both innovative and bold. What prompted this decision, and what other socially responsible programs do you offer your customers?

Scott Nash: As radical an environmentalist as I am, I think I might be even more radical a parent (much to the chagrin of my kids). We don’t let our kids watch TV, play video games, go online, or listen to the radio. They are very unscheduled.

I’m on the board of a great organization called The Alliance For Childhood, which advocates for more play/imagination time for children and less screen time.

Protecting and restoring the environment is the most important issue to me. The #2 issue for me is the lack of creative play time and meaningful human interactions kids have these days—and how they’re constantly bombarded by media, screens, and intensely busy schedules.

Seth Godin, one of my favorite marketing gurus, put the idea in my head when he once said during a lecture that he thought marketing to children ought to be illegal—and that applies directly to the grocery products we carry. Aside from giving to various local causes, eliminating products that market to children is the only initiative we’ve ever launched that doesn’t have something to do with MOM’s Purpose.

Dave Feldman: What haven’t you accomplished, and what do you hope to achieve in the future?

Scott Nash: I don’t do a lot of planning. I just keep moving forward, but I don’t look much at the past, nor much at the future. I work every day to make the world the better place, and that work is never-ending.”

About Dave Feldman

Feldman is the current and founding director of Bethesda Green, a dynamic 501c3 that serves as a catalyst and trusted resource for building a healthy economy and sustainable community. This model initiative has set up the first green business incubator and education center in the DC/Maryland region.

Feldman is also the CEO of the Livability Project LLC, an organization that provides structure and tools to help communities develop sustainability initiatives. Through Livability, Feldman leverages his entrepreneurial experience, international economic development expertise, and passion for sustainability to implement socially responsible, “green” community development projects that can be replicated worldwide.

For more information about Bethesda Green, visit www.bethesdagreen.org. For details about Feldman’s Livability Project, visit www.livabilityproject.com.